Settling Into Bangkok: A Solo Switch From Europe to Asia

After being in Bangkok for three and a half days now, I am just beginning to settle in, and am finally processing the switch over from Europe to Asia.

I spent the first few days in a haze, sleeping for long hours and attempting to take in the busy environments of Bangkok – with little to no reflection. But I still somehow managed to take some pictures ;).

My flight from CPH to BKK was around 11 hours, and was probably one of the best flights I’ve been on. It was rather empty, and I had an entire row to myself. Norwegian apparently just upgraded many of their planes as well, which meant tons of entertainment, a food-drink order menu by touch screen, and dimming windows when the sleep-bug started to kick in. It’s impressive how futuristic flying can seem nowadays.

After landing at the airport I caught a cab to my childhood friend’s dormitory; he had been studying abroad in Bangkok this past semester, and luckily we managed to catch each other before he flew back home.

It felt surreal taking the cab from the airport, being an “independent adult”. I did it all in Sweden, but doing it again made it all the more real.

I spent the first few days of my time in Thailand doing practically nothing, with Michael and some of his friends who were also studying abroad. And it was exactly what I needed.

I wasn’t expecting it, but I felt completely drained the first few days: no energy, no thoughts, no anything. I was like a walking robot. I kid you not, I slept until 4:00PM the day after I arrived. And continued to feel the need to sleep until today.

I can’t help but laugh when thinking of the interactions I had with everyone I met the first few days, I probably seemed like a zombie. My apologies to the people that had to suffer through my mute company or lifeless conversation. If an opportunity arises in the future, I’ll make it up to you all.

I’m not sure if it was the transition from Europe to Asia, plain old jet lag, or my body and mind trying to process the fact that my year of studying abroad in Sweden was over. Regardless of what it was, I feel loads better now. Able to walk around clearly, take in my surroundings, and engage with my usual energy. I’m just glad sloth-mode is over and done.

Some things were accomplished in sloth-mode, however, including a night out on Khao-San (popular street for backpackers filled with bars, clubs, etc.) and a trip to temple Wat Pho of the reclining Buddha. My first few days featured liters upon liters of sweat dripping from my body, eating a fried cricket, drinking alcohol out of buckets, having the BEST pad thai I have had in my life, and going to 7/11 more than 7 or 11 times (this store is a staple for people abroad, and they have them on almost every street).

Bangkok is a special place. It is nothing akin to any city in Europe that I have been to, yet familiar in some aspects. The humidity and heat remind me of living in Leon, Nicaragua, as well as the simplicity of exchange.

I feel comfortable here, in ways different than the comfort felt in Europe; Southeast Asia is a relatively safe place, but it is more the culture of the city of Bangkok than anything else that puts me at ease. There are people everywhere, food stands everywhere, busy streets and private streets, and you simply exist amongst it all.

There are so many precious spaces in this city, some grand and welcoming and some more tucked away. It is a rugged city, no doubt, compared to most places in Europe or the U.S., but it is a beautiful city all the same. Built with character and conscious.

Today I arrived to Jekky’s Homestay, a homestay tucked away in a calm alley right off of one of the main streets, where I will be staying and working for the next 2-3 weeks. It sounds extremely cliche, but as soon as I arrived to this place, I felt at home. And there’s not even air conditioning (so you know it’s real). The place is clean, quaint, and run by a small, spirited, young Thai lady, along with her husband from Spain and a couple of other volunteers. There’s also an adorable cat (no, Europe didn’t change me – I’m still a dog guy, but overlooking my stance for this little guy).

Now for a short story time: After settling into the shared room, and spending some time sorting through thoughts on my floor-level bed, I took our homestay’s shared bike for a short ride to town.

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Jekky’s homestay (top room ft. my bed on the left)
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View from the dormitory I stayed in the first 3 nights

It is quite intimidating at first, to be on your own in a major city, especially one in a foreign country, on a continent that you’ve never been to before. But it is also quite rejuvenating. Trusting in yourself, and trusting that the place that is now so unfamiliar will become familiar in time.

But, due to the overwhelming state of my first night alone, instead of ordering some authentic street food like future me will be a pro at, I picked up some measly snacks at 7/11. Measly, but delicious. And as I ate them back at the homestay, I started talking to Jekky, who opened up to me like any of my good friends would, and reminded me why I love traveling. And why I can do it on my own.

When you spend time in places that are unfamiliar to you, you tend to meet people that surprise you. People you might not have otherwise expected to know.

People that enrich your views on the world, and leave impressions that leave you whole.

I am beyond excited to start working on a short film project for the homestay, alongside a video of the various cultural activities that Jekky hosts, including cooking classes and boxing classes (all free for guests!). Even though I’ve still yet to get to know the people here very well, I am set on staying here the next time I’m in Bangkok. I have a really good feeling about this place, and this city.

I am simply excited to see what this entire trip has cut out for me. The things I’ll learn about the places I go, and the things I still have to learn about myself.

Such as:

  1. I sweat an un-human amount and don’t adjust immediately to a new climate like I thought I did in Nicaragua (probably just wishful hoping)
  2. I do even worse in foreign grocery stores than I do in American grocery stores, regardless of the fact that not knowing what is what should limit my struggle with making choices (ended up buying peanuts and pre-cut apples at a Costco-sized Thai store)
  3. I really am as dark as I like to think I am (Thai people keep speaking to me in Thai and then give me confused faces when I have no idea what to say)
  4. I’m terrible at learning new languages and will probably continue to speak Swedish phrases for the next few years (can’t even recall what “thank you” is in Thai after being told it more times than I can count)

But I truly am excited for these next couple of months. It’s the first time in forever that I’m on my own, without a program or group to lead and follow.

The friends I’ve made, lived, and travelled with before have given me the most phenomenal and heartwarming experiences. I miss you all, and can’t wait to meet again. But it’s time to explore in a different way.

I have already met a handful of people from other places in the world, and am stoked to experience everything that lies ahead.

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Moments made of people and places, brilliant and ordinary. ↹ Planet Earth, Milky Way

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